Jigten Sumgön studied all the teachings held by his father, and at the age of nine he began to instruct others. His uncle, Darma, taught him the Three Aspects of Vajrakilaya. From Lhopa Dorje Nyingpo and his disciples, he learned about Guhyasamaja. He also received teachings on this same yidam according to the tradition of Gö Lotsawa. Under Jetsun Khorwa Lungkyer he studied Mahamudra, practiced, and became accomplished in the Samadhi of Illusion. He saw the Arakta Padma buddhafield. From Lopön Kyebupa and Radreng Gomchen he learned the stages of the teaching, the stages of the path, and received many instructions of the Kadam tradition.
When he was fifteen, there was a famine in the land and Jigten Sumgön's father passed away. His mother and teachers died the next year. He then moved south and supported himself, and his host, by reading scriptures. Eventually he encountered Lord Phagmodrupa from whom he received the complete lineage teachings. To integrate these within his mind, he practiced in the Echung Cave day and night for seven years until he attained Buddhahood at the age of thirty-five. Lord Jigten Sumgön often said, "I practiced meditation for seven years. For five years, I didn't know how to practice, and for two years I practiced with full understanding achieving much realization. So, if you practice for some years, through the power of taming your mind you can go either to a pure buddhafield or to a higher realm. All things depend on cause and effect. Ultimately, all causes and effects appear from emptiness."
When he left the cave and at the request of humans and non-humans, Jigten Sumgon established a monastery at Drikung Thil in 1179, thus becoming the founder of the Drikung Kagyu order. At Drigung Thil Lord Jigten Sumgön built a residence, an assembly hall, a temple dedicated to the protectors that was filled with images of silver, and many other buildings. Because of his fame and many disciples, in the Earth Pig year of the third cycle he founded the seat of the Drigung Kagyu order and, in that year alone, more than a hundred monks gathered there. Later, to the memory of the glorious Phagmo Drupa, he built an auspicious stupa of many doors with seven different precious materials. At that time, 4,000 bhikshus were gathered at Drigung. When Lord Jigten Sumgön was thirty-nine, Drigung had 7,000 bhikshus divided into thirteen groups. By the time he was forty-nine, the victory banner of practice was planted firmly in the pinnacle of samsara in Tibet.
Many other Drigung Kagyu monasteries were built during Lord Jigten Sumgön's life. In the Land of Snows it was said that no other tradition flourished as did the Drigung Kagyu. Künkhyen Pema Karpo wrote, "Thus, when the Drigung Kagyu were flourishing, everything came under their authority." Jamgon Kongtrul Yontan Gyatso wrote, "It was common to say, 'The mountains are filled with Drigung hermits. The plains are filled with Drigung patrons.'" Thus Lord Jigten Sumgön, who was declared to be the Second Nagarjuna, performed limitless activities that filled the whole of space and the assembly of his disciples gathered like the disciples of Buddha Maitreya.
Lord Jigten Sumgon wrote many commentaries and explanations, especially the four volumes known as Inner Profound Teachings, in which he gives meditation instruction and advice. One of his foremost works, the Gong Chik, contains all the essential aspects of Vinaya discipline, Bodhicitta, and Tantra and many commentaries have been written on this text.
When he was seventy-five, Lord Jigten Sumgön began to think that he should dissolve the manifestation of his vajra body. He said, "Now there are no beings I have not helped; there are no teachings I have not given; and there are no activities I have not accomplished. Therefore, I am happy. My responsibilities are over. You all should work hard." To the four khenpos and lopöns and the meditation instructor Dorje Sengge, he gave the precious seat, along with limitless teachings of absolute meaning. The sky filled with rainbows and many other signs of his miracle power. According to his wish, he passed away into the ultimate state of peace and accomplishment at dusk, on the 25th day of the fourth month, the month of enlightenment, in the Female Fire Ox year (1217).
Prayer to Lord Jigten Sumgon
Precious Englightenment, the Source of Benefit and Bliss by Mipham
OM Emanation body, embodiment of the wisdom, compassion,
and ability of the buddhas and bodhisattvas
of the ten directions and the three times,
Drikungpa, protector of beings in the Land of Snows,
well-known as Ratna Shri,
please grant us the blessings of excellent virtue.
Though you have been enlightened, lord,
since beginningless time,
your manifestations of compassionate wisdom
will remain for as long as samsara exists.
You display various emanations again and again.
I bow down to you who bear the great burden
of protecting all beings.
You established, through the doors of study and practice,
the methods of the Mahayana in this Land of Snows.
The sun of your activities pervades the whole world.
I bow down to you, Lord Jigten Sumgon.
You promised to gaze, with unfailing compassion,
on whoever supplicates you with respect.
We are your followers in this degenerate age.
Who else can we rely on?
Therefore, now, when we supplicate you with devotion
from our hearts,
do not forget your former great promise.
Please spontaneously accomplish the essence of our wish
to increase the number of authentic masters
and to spread the teachings.
Please pacify the disheartening circumstances
of this degenerate age.
Further increase the glory and good qualities
of the world and its inhabitants.
Please grant your blessings so that all the gathered virtues
of the sacred and the secular without exception
may be expanded in this place.
The core of the thought of the victorious ones
of the three times
is the path of mahamudra, the pinnacle of the ultimate meaning.
Please establish and expand this path
in all directions and times.
Please grant your blessings to increase the good qualities
of the three trainings.
In this way, may these results that we have hoped for
ripen as we have wished.
By these excellent virtues, may the glory of auspiciousness,
the light of all that is marvelous,
pervade the three worlds.